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My lawn! My perfect lawn! It's... under attack.
May 11, 2013 8:26 AM   Subscribe

So, about a year and a half ago, we bought a house! Awesome. For the first time, I have a back yard and a front yard and a lawn and... stuff, and I don't know, maybe because I'm old and boring now, I've started to give a crap about making my lawn look nice. Something is really starting to piss me off...

We're in Michigan, if that helps from a geographical perspective.

Here's a wide shot of the scene of the battle. This is the foe. And this. And this.

My first thought was my old nemesis, Glechoma hederacea, or plain old ground ivy, but it doesn't seem quite right. The leaves don't look the right shape, and each of these little buggers seems autonomous, as opposed to being part of some kind of hive mind.

The other crazy idea I had is that maybe the seeds from the tree were falling down and germinating and sprouting, but that's crazy, right? .....Right?

Other thoughts? I just want to know what it is. So help me identify, hive mind!
posted by kbanas to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Creeping buttercup? (roll down about halfway on this page), or hit the GIS search results.
posted by jquinby at 8:37 AM on May 11, 2013


They look like strawberry plants to me. Strawberries come back every year...
posted by Andrhia at 8:38 AM on May 11, 2013


They look like strawberry plants to me. Strawberries come back every year...

Possible, I suppose, but there were definitely no strawberry plants there last year.
posted by kbanas at 8:42 AM on May 11, 2013


Creeping buttercup? (roll down about halfway on this page), or hit the GIS search results.

This is possible. I've yet to see any yellow blooms, but it's early yet. Maybe I just need to come to terms with the fact that it is some kind of broadleaf weed and just be satisfied with that - because it definitely seems like one of those suckers.
posted by kbanas at 8:43 AM on May 11, 2013


Looks like strawberry to me as well, or perhaps catnip.

And, no, seeds falling from the tree and germinating isn't crazy. It's what they do! I can't tell what kind of tree that is, though, so I can't be sure.
posted by cooker girl at 9:02 AM on May 11, 2013


Another vote for wild strawberry, which I believe put out dainty yellow blooms before they bear fruit.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 9:19 AM on May 11, 2013


It looks like buttercup to me, not strawberry. Over the short term, you could use a broadleaf weed killer, though buttercup is green, has pretty flowers. Over the long term, using organic lawn care will get you thick healthy grass that needs little chemical intervention.
posted by theora55 at 9:19 AM on May 11, 2013


Don't think it's strawberry. We get the same thing in Ontario. Even tiny strawberry plants have spiny stems, and this stuff is quite soft. It does abate somewhat if you cut low and regularly (broadleaves can't handle this), and corn gluten (as mentioned in theor55's link) does something, too.

But yeah, welcome to my lawn. Just wait until the bull thistles come through, oh my.
posted by scruss at 9:26 AM on May 11, 2013


Interesting, interesting, interesting!

As far as the tree right above, I think it's a maple? But I am really, really stupid about this stuff.

The reason I thought it might be the tree is that these seem to be all directly under the tree, and the tree drops those little helicopter seedlings everywhere. See see here. Maybe it's a maple? Anyway, I don't know.
posted by kbanas at 9:29 AM on May 11, 2013


Over the short term, you could use a broadleaf weed killer, though buttercup is green, has pretty flowers. Over the long term, using organic lawn care will get you thick healthy grass that needs little chemical intervention.

This is an argument I am having with my wife. She doesn't want the dogs to get cancer, or to spread toxic chemicals in the environment, or to be an irresponsible neighbor or a bad person, and so she is a big fan of things like organic lawn care.

I want to kill them all with fire, because I am a short term results thinker and also possibly a bad person.
posted by kbanas at 9:31 AM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


That looks remarkably like some kind of Geum to me. Here's a pic I just took of one in my garden.

They generally grow from a central point, with several branches.
posted by Solomon at 9:45 AM on May 11, 2013


That looks remarkably like some kind of Geum to me. Here's a pic I just took of one in my garden.

They generally grow from a central point, with several branches.


Oooo! I think we might have a winner.
posted by kbanas at 9:53 AM on May 11, 2013


I was coming in to say Geum. It was a weed in a garden I worked in, seeds are really easily dispersed because they stick to clothes and fur.

It's definitely not strawberry.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:55 AM on May 11, 2013


If they are discreet, stand alone plants and you're too lazy to pull them all out (which I would be), you can kill them with boiling water. You need to do it when they're small and fleshy, but I'm pretty sure I've had the same things growing and the water will kill them.
posted by shelleycat at 9:56 AM on May 11, 2013


If it is Geum, the seed pods will get stuck in your dog's fur. Bit more info about it.
posted by Solomon at 9:57 AM on May 11, 2013


They are pretty easy to pull if the ground is still moist. Don't use a broudleaf weed killer in your lawn unless you want to damage your maple tree. Hit them with an individual shot of Round-Up if you can't pull them.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:57 AM on May 11, 2013


(Round Up will kill lawn grasses as well, so don't overspray or do it when it's wet or windy).
posted by oneirodynia at 9:58 AM on May 11, 2013


kbanas, hit me up on mfc or here for control options. An 'organic' lawn might require a new definition of what 'lawn' means to you.

and beware of sweeping declarations like this:
"Don't use a broudleaf weed killer in your lawn unless you want to damage your maple tree"

It's inaccurate and incomplete advice.
posted by greenskpr at 10:36 AM on May 11, 2013


kbanas, hit me up on mfc or here for control options. An 'organic' lawn might require a new definition of what 'lawn' means to you.

Hey Greenspkr! I'm sending you a MeFi Mail now!
posted by kbanas at 10:37 AM on May 11, 2013


Your tree is a silver maple by the way.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 11:39 AM on May 11, 2013


Yes, and silver maple is not good for lawns.
posted by lathrop at 12:11 PM on May 11, 2013


Grass is nice and all, but personally, I let broadleafs and mosses in my lawn area, and I think it looks good

I've mentioned it here before, but I think a bit of clover in the lawn does a world of good. In addition to fixing nitrogren, it seems to help crowd out other broadleafs like dandelions. It does change the texture of the lawn a bit, and you might want to keep it mown well to keep the blossoms down.
posted by jquinby at 1:05 PM on May 11, 2013


As an experiment in getting rid of small broad-leafed plants, I have poured boiling water on them. It really was effective at killing bindweed, and has zero toxicity. A couple of plants took more than one application. It should not affect the grass as strongly, but I don't have grass. If you try this, start with one, to make sure the grass isn't too damaged. Also, it's cheap and easy.
posted by annsunny at 2:51 PM on May 11, 2013


FWIW, the tree in the first link looks to be the usual crappy maple that's been planted everywhere throughout the midwest for ages. Your mystery plant is definitely not a seedling from the tree.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:14 AM on May 12, 2013


"Don't use a broudleaf weed killer in your lawn unless you want to damage your maple tree"

It's inaccurate and incomplete advice.


Okay, I didn't have time to write everything I wanted to. So yes, it's not accurate to have written it without adding in "without doing research". Having worked in a nursery that sold Weed-n-Feed, 9 times out of 10 people barely even read the bag, let alone precautions. Weed-n-Feed products are particularly egregious in their promise of a big payoff with little work, and as such promote poor horticultural and IPM practices that use resources such as fossil fuels, create conditions that damage soil and water ecology, and can have detrimental effects in the home garden.

Here's some more specific information for anyone still reading: hormonal type herbicides such as dichlorprop and mecoprop rarely damage trees when used at suggested rates in granular form. However, drift from sprays or volitilization on warm days can injure foliage, and shallow rooted, deciduous trees (such as maples in lawns) can be sensitive to even properly applied hormonal-type herbicides. Symptoms appear at growing tissue, and fall applications of hormonal-type herbicides may not show damage until leaves emerge in the spring. Dicamba and picloram herbicides are absorbed through roots and can severely injure or kill woody ornamentals. Dicamba is persistent for several months and will leach into groundwater. Even if herbicide application does not leave any visible signs of damage on woody ornamentals, the general decline of urban forests is attributed to its use, among other stressors.

The broadleaf herbicides for post emergent weeds are most effective applied in fall, when weeds are moving nutrients from leaves to roots as they prepare for dormancy. However, it makes no sense to do so in a Weed-and-Feed application in the fall, as nitrogen promotes growth at a time when plants should be slowing down their systems. In the spring it is far better to spot treat with non-selective herbicides like Round-Up, which breaks down quickly and has minor, if any, root effect.

In addition to these considerations, broad application of herbicide when spot application would be effective is wasteful and unnecessary. Broad application of fertilizer without a soil test is also hugely wasteful. Runoff or leaching of herbicides and fertilizers is detrimental to hydrologic systems, and can damage soil biota (phosphorous on certain forms of mycorrhizae, ammonia on longer lived soil mesofauna). What's most damaging to soil structure however, is lack of soil organic material, which many homeowners overlook in favor of short-term gains from nitrogen fertilizer. Over application of nitrogen attracts pests and pathogens, as nitrogen is a desirable energy source. Nitrogen encourages top growth, sometimes at the expense of root growth. This means that plants have less ability to take in other needed nutrients to support that top growth, and can contribute to shallow rooting, which in turn makes lawns more susceptible to fungal and nematode damage, and drought stress. Excess top growth of turf grasses means more mowing, and unless that grass is composted, it is essentially nitrogen being thrown away (after you have paid for a bag of it to be spread on the lawn).

This is why I recommend spot non-selective herbicide application over Weed-and-Feed type fertilizers. Specific solutions to target specific issues almost always means fewer resources used with fewer unwanted side effects, at the cost of time and sometimes energy. Weed-n_Feed is inherently a product for generalized use, and care should be taken to balance the side effects of such an approach to a specific issue.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:08 PM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


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